Omurbek kyzy Aidai, a participant in the UNDP's 2018 Janyration initiative, shared how she managed to successfully develop her small business in Kochkor village, Naryn province, in 4 years and attract international clients.
Omurbek kyzy Aidai still remembers the exact date she launched her business: 6th December 2017. At the time, she was working as a cook in a restaurant, where customers often asked her for in-home chef services to welcome guests. She says that she liked such orders better because it was more interesting and the pay was higher than a full day at the restaurant. Later, due to her constant workload, the owner of the restaurant stopped allowing chefs to do private jobs and that's when Aidai decided to go her own way as an entrepreneur.
"I left the restaurant without any specific ideas, but with the clear intention of starting my own business. With advice from friends and family, I started by creating an Instagram page. I remember staying at home all day trying to think of a name. By the evening, the idea of "Zheneler KG" (Zheneler from Kyrgyz for "daughter-in-law") came to mind. I started filling in interesting pictures and descriptions, and immediately received my first order. A girl called Nasyikat invited me to wash dishes for 1,500 soms during a reception. I immediately agreed, and during the job I was happy to prompt her on salads and dishes. Nasikat liked it and she immediately placed an order for the services of a cook for 4500 soms for the next time. With that sum, my mother and I went to the market and ordered uniforms for the dishwashers, waiters and cooks for the staff I recruited for my team. Thus the business started from scratch, and all the income was invested back into business development." said Aidai.
Aidai was educated as a pastry chef at Vocational Lyceum No. 91 in 2013, but she was too shy to work in her profession when her classmates were studying at universities, especially as she was an excellent student at both school and lyceum. She studied at the "Legal Organisation of Social Welfare" department of the Law College, and then graduated with honours from the Law Academy, after which she worked for three years in the Pervomaisky district police department in Bishkek. She recalls her legal career with a smile, and admits that she underestimated her first profession as a pastry chef because of stereotypical beliefs about higher education.
In 2018, she found out about our Janyration project from social media and immediately filled in the questionnaire. The first phase of the project involved visits to regions of Kyrgyzstan to identify young people interested in entrepreneurship and willing to receive additional education in business planning, critical thinking and communication skills. Our heroine Aidai was among one of them. The second phase of the project brought together 60 people in Bishkek for 4 days of courses on "On the Limit" and "Design Thinking". Participation in the second phase gave Aidai a broader vision of entrepreneurship. Later, she was selected for the first round of investment in the John Galt accelerator business project competition supported by the UNDP Youth for Peaceful Development project and received her first investment of 70,000 soms. According to Aidai, this boosted her self-esteem, gave her confidence in her abilities and allowed her to buy additional equipment to open new branches in the Osh oblast. In addition, Aidai received continuous counselling support from business accelerator John Gault on how to develop and further scale her business. Now she has a cooking school in Osh city in addition to field services for cooks, waiters and dishwashers. There they train chefs for cafes and restaurants not only from Osh but also from Jalalabad. They are invited all over Kyrgyzstan, and their mobile kitchen serves up to 600 people at a time.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her team did not despair, and launched an online cooking school, which in two years has gained popularity not only in Kyrgyzstan but also in Kazakhstan, Turkemenistan, Russia and even the US. This success inspired her to go international, and now Aidai is working on a new online platform for her cooking courses.
Notably, she is constantly developing herself. Earlier this year, she and her cooks took a cooking course in St. Petersburg, and now she plans to open an additional sauce production facility - "because there are no tasty sauces in Bishkek." she says.
The heroine shares that before taking part in the Janyration initiative, she would never have believed she could develop and scale up like this. And even now she is surprised that things have recently changed for the better. She has managed to unite many people from different regions around her idea, create jobs, and export her knowledge and experience to other countries, all at the age of 24.
Janyration, a community of aspiring young entrepreneurs, was implemented with the support of the UNDP Youth for Peace project, funded by the Government of Japan and implemented by UNDP and the John Galt business accelerator.